CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--'Young Man With A Horn'

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at December 8, 2008 - 10:00 AM GMT

See Also: 'Young Man With A Horn' Episode Guide


Layla Wells, one of the finalists in the Overnight Sensation reality TV talent contest, is found dead, wrapped in a table cloth outside the Palermo Hotel. Nick finds the Rancho Linen logo on the tablecloth, and Catherine notes that the company supplied all the old Vegas casinos back in the day. Dr. Robbins tells Grissom that Layla was killed by a blow to the abdomen just below her rib cage--and that she was eight weeks pregnant. The CSIs suspect Layla's fellow contestant and competitor, Kip Westerman, after surveillance footage from the Palermo hotel's camera reveals they left their rooms just after midnight. Kip and his overprotective father both defend Kip's innocence, and sure enough, the fetus's DNA is a match to Drew Rich, the show's executive producer. Drew tells the CSIs he offered to pay for an abortion, but denies killing the girl, claiming he was with a hooker at the time. Evidence that suggests both the lipstick Layla was wearing and the tablecloth she was found in was significantly aged leads Catherine and Nick to pull out a map of Las Vegas fifty years ago. The only casino still standing that was serviced by Rancho Linens is Le Chateau Rouge, Las Vegas's first desegregated hotel. Nick and Greg find trace from Layla's sweater and cart wheel marks similar to ones found near Layla's body. When they enter the rundown, closed hotel, they find fresh blood on the floor.

Grissom arrives at the scene and speaks with the owner, Karen Rosenthal, who tells him the hotel closed down fifty years ago after her husband, Jules, was murdered there. Catherine and Greg explore the dressing room, where they discover the dressing table of Layla's grandmother, Justine. While Grissom recovers a fresh bullet from the floor, Catherine finds Layla's cell phone and sees a video on it recorded just before the girl's death, which reveals her dancing for Kip before being surprised by a man behind the curtain with a saxophone. The man hasn't gone far; Grissom discovers him behind the same curtain, holding a gun. The man passes out from dehydration and is taken to the hospital. Kip tells Brass that Layla had wanted to see where her grandmother danced when she was a showgirl. After the man surprised them, Kip ran, assuming Layla had done the same. He searched for her for hours, but never found her. In the hospital room, the man won't give Grissom his name, but he claims to have murdered Layla.

Grissom is bothered by the 50-year-old Rosenthal murder; the print supposedly from the killer, Melchior Wilson, was lifted from an alligator skin wallet, but the texture of the print is inconsistent with the wallet's grooves. Nick matches the bullet from the gun to the one that killed Rosenthal. Grissom tracks down former Sheriff Claude Montgomery, who made the arrest. After a poker game with Montgomery and several other Vegas old timers, Grissom questions Montgomery, who deflects his questions. Back at the hotel, Catherine finds the fatal blow to the stomach that killed Layla was caused by a chair handle, indicating Layla ran into it in the darkness of the hotel. Her death was an accident. Riley identifies the man in the hospital as Harry Bastile, an African American saxophonist, using an old program from Le Chateau Rouge. Grissom asks Bastile why he moved Layla's body, and Bastile admits he didn't want anyone to discover him hiding out at Le Chateau Rouge. Grissom asks Karen Rosenthal to meet him at the hospital and tells her he thinks Melchior Wilson was framed for her husband's murder. He suspects Bastile is the real killer, but Karen admits the truth: she had been having an affair with Harry. When her husband caught them together, she shot him. She confessed to the murder, but the men in power in Las Vegas at the time forced the sheriff to arrest Melchior Wilson. A white woman could get away with murder, she tells Grissom, but not love a black man. Grissom meets Catherine on the strip and tells her he came to Vegas to win at cards. As an impecunious student, he chose science over his college love, but now he observes, it might be time to up the ante.


Two cases closed for the price of one in this engrossing glimpse into Vegas's past. Like Greg, who spouts off a fair amount of Vegas history in this episode, I'm fond of Vegas lore. Episodes that give viewers a glimpse of the Vegas of yesteryear are always fun. Before his demise, Catherine's father, Sam Braun, often showed up to be not just a window into Catherine's past but that of the city itself, with its mobster justice and back room deals. Episodes like "Kiss-Kiss, Bye-Bye" and "Living Legend" tie present day murders into past intrigue. Las Vegas is such a unique setting, with a rich and vibrant history, so it's always nice to see the show utilize it.

That's not to say there isn't plenty of rich material in the present storyline. I particularly like the send up of juggernaut American Idol. Drew Rich is every pompous reality TV judge all rolled into one: his arrogant cutting comments and abuse of his position might be stereotypical, but anyone who has watched Simon Cowell lay into Idol hopefuls will likely find that they ring true. Holt McCallany, who played Calleigh's earnest suitor John Hagen in the early seasons of CSI: Miami, is convincing as an over-involved stage dad, while Benjamin Bledsoe is the sweet-voiced dream contestant who is tailor-made to enchant viewers--and teenage girls--across the country. Idol viewers--or anyone who has ever picked up an US Weekly will recognize the references to Sanjaya when Hodges tells Archie about how he and others vote week after week for contestant Ajaya, while McCallany's stage dad reflects the rumors about the father of last season's runner up, David Archuleta.

Grissom, who has been fairly dour over the last few episodes, perks up a bit here during the investigation, especially once it leads him down the path of reevaluating the Rosenthal murder. He gamely jumps in the car with Karen Rosenthal (though, ever the professional, Grissom won't think of sharing a glass of champagne with her while on the clock) and just as willingly sits down at the poker table with former Sheriff Montgomery and his cohorts, listening to tales about Le Chateau Rouge and its role as the first integrated Vegas club back in the 50s. The episode is packed with famous actors from yesteryear, including Ralph Waite, Robert Guillaume and Tippi Hedrin, who plays a convincing repentant star-crossed lover opposite the sympathetic Bill Cobb.

Rather than being reinvigorated by solving both a modern day mystery and discovering the truth about a murder in the past, the case seems to give Grissom a sense of closure. He opens up to Catherine as they walk along the strip, telling her that the promise of "win[ing] at cards" was what first brought him to Vegas, back when he was a starry-eyed young CSI who spent his money on dead pigs rather than his college girlfriend. Catherine points out that he's got the pig now, and a family of sorts--a work family. In the past, this likely would have been enough for Grissom. But now? His response is, "Maybe it's time to up the ante."

What prompts the change of heart? In the episode, it's likely seeing lovers Karen and Harry, who fell in love but were divided by society and lived their lives apart. Harry refers to Le Chateau Rouge as the last place he was happy, something that likely resonates with Grissom. He hasn't really been happy since the beginning of the season, when his world was rocked by two things: Warrick's death and Sara's second, seemingly more permanent, goodbye. Grissom has been struggling with the job since season seven, but if he leaves now, he presumably has someone to move forward with.

We finally get a mention of Warrick from Nick, albeit an offhand one. When he and Greg arrive at Le Chateau Rouge, Nick comments that the last time he was in the bad part of town, he was working a case with Warrick. He and Greg both pause for a moment before moving on with the investigation. While I still would have expected to have seen more of a reaction from Nick to Warrick's death at this point, it's nice to at least get a reference.

It's nice to see Greg so fired up by the case--he is the expert on Vegas history after all, having penned a book on the subject that is apparently close to publication. He's full of lore about the locale, from how it was the first integrated hotel in town to the popularity of its shows requiring Rosenthal to add a 2:30am performance to the schedule. The hotel apparently burned both brightly and briefly, closing down a mere 6 months after it opened, according to Greg. Greg's enthusiasm is contagious; it's one of the things that made him such an appealing character in the early days of the show, and it's gratifying to see it revisited when he gets to delve into his favorite subject.

Discuss this reviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.